. On-Site Covid Testing Is Among Hotels' Latest Safety Protocols | Northstar Meetings Group

On-Site Covid Testing Is Among Hotels' Latest Safety Protocols

Wynn Resorts is working with the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada to build an on-site, rapid-testing lab for the Wynn Las Vegas.

Wynn-Las-Vegas-Covid-Lab
A new Covid-19 testing lab is expected to open at the Wynn Las Vegas by Thanksgiving. Source:Wynn Resorts

Coronavirus and Meetings
Head here to see Northstar Meetings Group’s comprehensive and continuing coverage of how coronavirus is affecting meetings.

Updated Oct. 2, 2020 

Wynn Resorts is in the process of building an on-site Covid-19 testing lab for its Wynn Las Vegas property. According to Wynn CEO Matt Maddox, the lab is expected to be finished before Thanksgiving, and will have the ability "to deploy thousands of accurate rapid tests daily at a fraction of the current cost."

The facility, which is being built in partnership with the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, will use FDA-approved polymerase chain-reaction technology. Wynn is working with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to track and analyze the results in a matter of hours.

"Extensive research clearly indicates that what is keeping people away from Las Vegas is not so much the physical environment, which we work diligently to keep sterilized, but rather a fear of other people. We must alleviate that fear," said Maddox in an op-ed. "I do hope a vaccine will be available and widely adopted soon, but we can’t wait... We owe these efforts to our visitors and to the citizens of Las Vegas whose lives and futures depend on Las Vegas attracting millions of tourists and getting back to the business of fun."

Meanwhile, MGM Resorts International has revealed its Convene with Confidence plan, designed to ensure the safe return of meetings and conventions at its properties in Las Vegas and throughout the United States, subject to local regulations and restrictions. Among other measures, it allows groups the option of an on-site screening process provided by CLEAR’s Health Pass and/or rapid Covid-19 testing provided by Impact Health that can deliver results within 20 minutes.

This builds on the company's Seven-Point Safety Plan to provide a comprehensive approach to health and safety. "Convene with Confidence represents the culmination of everything we've learned, cutting-edge technology and months of consultation with experts," said MGM Resorts CEO and President Bill Hornbuckle.

Meetings-Safety Protocols Grow

Marriott, Hilton, Wyndham and many others are extending the enhanced hygiene practices and protocols they have developed to facilitate meetings in the age of the coronavirus pandemic. Cvent, meanwhile, has aggregated these programs to make them easily accessible at the time of sourcing.

Marriott International has rolled out a variety of planning tools on MarriottBonvoyEvents.com, including evolving best practices for holding safe meetings, new floor plans that account for distancing requirements, virtual consultations and site tours, information about redesigned food-and-beverage experiences, and a frequently updated list of requirements and guidelines.

Hilton released the details of its EventReady with CleanStay program last month, a meetings-specific initiative that builds on the CleanStay hotel program it began rolling out in mid-June. CleanStay, which was created in collaboration with Lysol maker RB and the Mayo Clinic, should be implemented across the hospitality company's 18 brands shortly. The RB/Lysol partnership, originally announced for North American hotels, has been expanded to include Hilton's global portfolio and additional RB cleaning and disinfecting products available internationally.

The new EventReady With CleanStay program is both a cleanliness and customer-service initiative that is built on three key tenets:

  • Cleanliness protocols. EventReady builds on the protocols outlined in CleanStay by addressing every touch point of the meeting experience. High-touch areas have been identified, sanitizing stations have been added to meeting rooms and, as with the Hilton guest rooms, a room-seal ribbon will be placed on meeting rooms after they have been readied for the event.
  • Added flexibility. Hilton is promising flexible pricing, space options and contract terms, as well as offers tailored to customer needs — such as simplified agreements for small meetings. The company is also providing expert guidance via the new Hilton EventReady Playbook, which contains resources for appropriate meeting solutions, like hybrid meetings, and space-specific suggestions for rooms sets and networking ideas. "And best of all, this is a living document," underscored Danny Hughes, Hilton's president of the Americas region. "We are very cognizant of the fact that things are going to change. This is not a 'one-and-done' set of guidelines."
  • Safe and socially responsible solutions. Hilton team members will collaborate with planners to achieve meeting objectives while addressing health and environmental concerns specific to their location. Efforts will include things like physical-distancing meeting sets and meal service, as well as socially responsible food-and-beverage menus. Environmental impact will be measured by LightStay, Hilton's corporate-responsibility metrics measurement platform.

Danny Hughes Hilton EventReady CleanStay
Danny Hughes, Hilton

"The new program is completely driven by the consumer," noted Hughes. "From day one we've been talking to meeting planners, whether they be third-party planners, corporate planners, sports teams, people who plan family gatherings, and we asked them, 'Once you're willing to travel and gather, what will be important to you?' And everything we've designed is a result of that discussion."

Wyndham, too, has expanded its cleanliness program to include meetings guidelines. The Count on Us initiative, which was launched in early June and bases protocols on AHLA's Safe Stay guidelines, now covers five key areas of the meetings experience: revised layouts and reduced capacity, new signage, more frequent cleanings, modified food-and-beverage service based on regulations and local guidelines, and the flexibility to accommodate outdoor and/or hybrid events.

That flexibility also applies across the planning process, added Carol Lynch, senior vice president of sales for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. "We understand and we're seeing it every day how important flexibility is to planners," she said. "They need more short-term situations with less risk, and we're working very closely with them on things like cancellation terms, even attrition. And we're incorporating checkpoints into the process, where we check in on the current status as the meeting date approaches, allowing them to plan farther out."

In a similar vein, the global hotel company Accor recently rolled out its All Meet Well protocol, to complement the All Stay Well framework that was already in place. The latest guidelines deal specifically with the attendee journey, and 20 typical touch points experienced by a meeting participant in the hotel setting. The first point in Accor's plan — the guest-room block — refers to flexible cancellation policies for all meetings-related room reservations that occur in 2020. 

Within the meetings and travel industry, organizations and collaborative task forces are attempting to standardize best practices or even offer certifications so that groups can meet safely again. Until those industry standards are more firmly established, hotel-company transparency — and public trust that the new protocols are being enforced — will have to suffice. 

Meanwhile, meetings-technology giant Cvent has compiled information on a wide range of initiatives launched by its hotel, facility and destination partners, allowing planners to consult terms within the Cvent Supplier Network before they start their search. The new Source Safely microsite offers a curated collection of safety practices and guidelines, representing more than 31,000 properties internationally.

Masks for All

A growing number of companies, such as hotel giants Marriott International and Hyatt, require all guests to wear a face mask while indoors.

The mask mandates began to appear after the American Hotel and Lodging Association released a "Safe Stay Guest Checklist," which encourages all hotels to require face masks in indoor public spaces to help create a standardized safety experience. Hyatt said the rule will apply to meeting spaces, restaurants, bars, fitness centers and other indoor spaces at all of its properties in the U.S. and Canada. Both Hyatt and Marriott rolled out the new requirement at the end of July.

"As part of our commitment to clean, we made it a brand standard that associates wear masks and set an example. Given the recent spikes across the U.S. and with guidance from health officials, we are now extending the requirement to wear face masks in all indoor public spaces in hotels to our guests, no matter the jurisdiction," said Marriott president and CEO Arne Sorenson in a video update on July 20. "Please help us do what we can to beat COVID-19. These are all easy steps we can take to support one another and the communities we love, whether we live there, work there or are visiting."

As a resource, we've provided here links to a wide variety hotel cleanliness initiatives. Following the list you can read our summary of what some of the biggest players — and earliest adopters — have announced, dating back to the mid-April plans provided by Wynn Resorts and Marriott International.

Hotel Safety and Hygiene Protocols

AHLA Safe Stay

The American Hotel & Lodging Association has convened an industry-wide council to develop cleaning standards. AHLA's Safe Stay initiative will be focused on enhanced hotel cleaning practices, social interactions and workplace protocols, all as they pertain to thwarting the spread of the COVID-19 virus and reassuring travelers and hotel employees that the spaces safe. 

"Every hotel guest and employee should know that their health and safety are our top priority," noted Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. "Safe Stay represents a new level of focus for an industry already built on cleanliness. Hotels have always had rigorous standards for cleaning and safety; with Safe Stay we are enhancing these standards to help create peace of mind. When travel resumes, hotels will be ready to safely welcome back the traveling public."

The association has convened the Stay Safe Advisory Council, consisting of representatives from 17 of the world's largest hospitality companies: Accor, Aimbridge Hospitality, Best Western, Choice, G6 Hospitality, Hilton, Hyatt Hotels Corp., InterContinental Hotels Group, Lowes, Marriott International, My Place Hotels, Noble Investment Group, Omni, Radisson Hotel Group, Red Lion, Red Roof and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts

Those hotel-industry leaders will work together with public health experts, scientists, and medical leaders to develop best practices, particularly with respect to:

  • Enhanced cleaning standards throughout the hotels
  • The use of cleaning products that meet CDC guidelines
  • Social-distancing measures
  • Transparency about all the processes in place

When complete, the guidelines will be publicly accessible at ahla.com/safestay.

Hilton CleanStay

The Hilton CleanStay initiative, which will roll out June 15, represents a collaboration with RB, maker of Lysol and Dettol, with consultation from Mayo Clinic's Infection Prevention and Control team to improve all cleaning and disinfection protocols.

While the hotel company already is using hospital-grade cleaning products and upgraded protocols across all of its brands, the CleanStay initiative is meant to make the processes visible and offer peace of mind, according to Hilton.

"As the hospitality industry evolves to address travelers’ changing expectations – especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic – Hilton CleanStay is the latest evolution of our commitment to providing the peace of mind and confidence our guests need to travel freely, while protecting our team members,” said Hilton president and CEO Christopher Nassetta.

Hilton and RB have entered into a multiyear partnership agreement that will tap hygiene and disinfection experts from Lysol for consultation, training and education, and involve the use of the company's products. As for the medical expertise, this isn't the first collaboration between Hilton and the Mayo Clinic. Company founder Conrad Hilton became a patient at Mayo late in life, and in 1972 donated $10 million to help launch the Conrad N. Hilton Medical Laboratory and Research Center in Human Behavior — the first building in the Rochester, Minn., complex designed for laboratory medicine. The Mayo Clinic will now advise the company on cleaning protocols, training programs and quality assurance.

The tenets of CleanStay, representing the entire guest experience, include the following.

  • Online: Before traveling, guests can find details about what to expect at the CleanStay landing page. Property websites will also have updates about protocols and changes to expect.
  • Lobby: An entirely contactless arrival will be available to those who want one, via the HiltonHonors mobile app. Guests can use the free app to check in, choose a room, unlock their room door with Digital Key and check out. The option is currently available at more than 4,700 properties worldwide. For traditional check-in, physical-distancing measures will be in place.
  • Guest room: A CleanStay room seal will be placed on the door after the room has been thoroughly cleaned, so guests know on arrival that no one else has entered the room since that time. High-touch areas such as light switches, door handles, TV remotes, thermostats and more will be more thoroughly disinfected. Items like pens and paper will be removed, and disinfecting wipes will be provided in every room.
  • Housekeeping: Service during a stay will be based on guest preference, depending on whether they want cleaning staff to enter their room. Additional amenities such as linens and toiletries will be available upon request, and will be delivered in protective packaging and left at the door.
  • Public spaces. Public-area cleaning frequency will be increased. Fitness centers might be closed for cleaning multiple times daily, and equipment therein will be arranged according to distancing measures, with stricter guest-capacity measures in place. The pool and pool areas likewise will be frequently cleaned throughout the day, with distancing measures in place. Hand-sanitizing stations and wipes will be available throughout the property.
  • Food and beverage: In restaurants, tables and chairs will be spaced to ensure proper distancing, and biodegradable, disposable dishes and utensils will be available upon request. Breakfast options will include grab-and-go, preplated covered items. Room service, where provided, will entail contactless delivery and single-use serviceware.
  • Meetings and events: The Hilton EventReady with CleanStay program will focus on cleanliness, flexibility, and safe and socially responsible solutions, as well as creative food and beverage, new technology and sustainable practices.

Hyatt Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment

Hyatt Hotels Corp. has announced a formal Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment “to further enhance its operational guidance and resources around colleague and guest safety and peace of mind.”

The multi-layered program, set to launch in May, builds on Hyatt’s existing protocols and includes an accreditation process by the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, a division of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, for its hotels around the world. The accreditation, GBAC STAR, is a performance-based cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention program to ensure hotel environments are sanitary, safe and healthy. Hyatt is the first hospitality brand to announce plans to commit to GBAC STAR accreditation, which will include detailed training at more than 900 Hyatt hotels worldwide. The hospitality giant intends to complement this with regular internal and third-party auditing.

Other aspects of Hyatt’s Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment include colleague training and support resources, and the formation of an advisory group of medical experts and industry professionals. By September 2020, every Hyatt hotel will have at least one person on property trained as a hygiene manager who will be responsible for their hotel adhering to new operational guidance and protocols.

The advisory group Hyatt has assembled to support efforts with COVID-19 research findings and information include Daniel Lucey, M.D., M.P.H., Infectious Diseases professor, Georgetown University Medical Center; fellow, Infectious Disease Society of America; Charles Yarborough, M.D., M.P.H., preventive/occupational medicine expert; affiliated with Johns Hopkins Department of Medicine and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Elaine Black, Ph.D., food science and microbiology, Ecolab.

IHG

In a statement posted on its corporate website, IHG Hotels & Resorts is “closely monitoring developments around the world and are in contact with global organizations including the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and relevant authorities for country-specific requirements, to ensure the actions we take are comprehensive and suitable.”

The company requires all of its properties to adhere to comprehensive health and safety procedures, including all local laws. In addition, hotels have been given best practices and guidelines, which have been supplemented with additional COVID-19 cleanliness-specific guidance, training and information consistent with IHG standards.

Among the hospitality company’s specific recommendations are:

  •  Activation of response teams to provide around-the-clock assistance to our hotels.
  • Hotels have increased the frequency of cleaning public areas (including lobbies, elevators, door handles, public bathrooms) and high-touch points in guest rooms.
  • All hotels have been advised on cleaning products and protocols which are effective against viruses.
  • IHG continues to review food and beverage service in accordance with current food safety recommendations.

Kempinski White Glove Services

Kempinski Hotels' new protocols, Kempinski White Glove Services initiative, outlined in a 50-page booklet, details all measures to be taken at Kempinski properties, including the set-up of public areas, food & beverage, and meeting spaces. Other steps include the following:

  • Guest rooms will be outfitted with  hand sanitizers and guest masks.
  • Furniture in public areas will be rearranged to keep social distancing rules.
  • Sanitizing stations will be spread throughout each hotel.
  • Key cards will be disinfected before and after usage

Additionally, guests can choose to not to allow any hotel team member to enter their room during their stay.

“It is crucial to us to continue delivering service on the highest level true to our Kempinski heritage as this is what we stand for,” said Benedikt Jaschke, chief quality officer and member of the Kempinski management board. “The list of measures to be taken is long and very complex, but appropriate and strictest hygienic standards on a very high level are key to reassuring our valued guests that a stay at any Kempinski hotel worldwide during or post-coronavirus lockdown offers an environment of full safety in any respect without sacrificing our high standards of professional luxury service."

Langham Protocol Expansion

At the 22 upscale properties in the Langham Hospitality Group portfolio, stringent cleaning and sanitizing practices —  similar to those outlined in Marriott International's new protocols — have been in place since the SARS epidemic of 2003. 

The Hong Kong-based company has upped precautions for the current pandemic: All guests will be asked to fill out a declaration form detailing their recent travels; and every guest, employee, vendor and delivery person will have their temperatures taken before they enter a hotel.

Further safety measures outlined this month by LHG include:

  • Frequent disinfection of all high-touch areas such as door handles, elevator buttons, hand rails, telephones and remote controls
  • Sterilization of all chinaware, glassware and cutlery using high temperature washing equipment
  • Execution of additional cleaning protocols in all rooms and suites prior to and after each guest’s stay
  • Automatic hand sanitizer dispensers placed in elevator areas in the lobby and hand sanitizer bottles at host stations at the restaurants and bars, bell counter, reception and concierge.

"Based on the expert advice of the World Health Organization, local governments, public health authorities and medical professionals, our hotels will continue to implement stringent measures against the spread of COVID-19,” says Stefan Leser, CEO of the LHG.

Marriott Global Cleanliness Council

Hospitality giant Marriott International recently announced its multipronged platform to elevate cleanliness standards, behaviors and processes to meet the health and safety challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of that effort, the company has created a Global Cleanliness Council to focus on developing the next level of standards to minimize risk and enhance safety for everyone on site.

"We are living in a new age, with COVID-19 front and center for our guests and our associates," said Arne Sorenson, Marriott International president and CEO. "We are grateful for the trust our guests have shown us through the years. We want our guests to understand what we are doing today and planning for in the near future in the areas of cleanliness, hygiene and social distancing, so that when they walk through the doors of one of our hotels, they know our commitment to their health and safety is our priority. It’s equally important to us that our associates know the changes we are making to help safeguard their health as they serve our guests."

The new Global Cleanliness Council is chaired by Ray Bennett, chief global officer of global operations for Marriott International, and consists of both in-house and outside experts in areas such as housekeeping, engineering, food safety, occupational health and workplace wellbeing. Among the advisory members are Dr. Ruth Petran, senior corporate scientist of food safety and public health for Ecolab, a global provider of solutions and services with respect to water, hygiene and infection prevention; Dr. Michael A. Sauri, infectious disease specialist at Adventist Healthcare; Dr. Richard Ghiselli, head of the School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Purdue University; and Dr. Randy Worobo, professor of food microbiology in the department of food science at Cornell University.

"Marriott has a long tradition of emphasizing cleanliness in our care of guest rooms and in the public spaces of our hotels," said Bennett. "Through the council and scientific advice of experts, we are taking a thoughtful approach to setting an even higher bar of cleanliness and developing new guest interaction protocols." The goals of the council, Bennett added, go beyond hotel disinfection, towards a more holistic approach to care and well-being for both guests and hotel associates. 

Technology Solutions

As part of the approach, Marriott will be rolling out new technologies over the next few months to counter virus spread. Among them: electrostatic sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectant to sanitize surfaces throughout the hotels. According to the company, electrostatic-spraying technology uses the highest classification of disinfectants that are recommended by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization. The sprayers can clean rapidly and would be used in guest rooms, lobbies, gyms and other public areas.

Marriott is also testing ultraviolet-light technology as a way to sanitize keys and shared devices.

Specific Protocol Enhancements

Among Marriott's priorities in developing new cleaning standards, the company will focus on three facets of the facilities and guest experience:

Surface Areas

  • Surfaces in public areas and guest rooms are now required to be cleaned thoroughly with hospital-grade disinfectants.
  • Public-area surfaces will be cleaned with increased frequency.
  • Disinfecting wipes will be placed in each guest room.

Guest Contact

  • Signs will be placed in lobbies to remind guests of social distancing protocols.
  • Furniture in public areas will be either removed or rearranged to allow more space.
  • Marriott is evaluating the addition of partitions at front desks.
  • Masks and gloves will be made available to all hotel associates.
  • More hand-sanitizing stations will be installed at hotel entrances and near the front desks, elevator banks and fitness and meeting spaces.
  • The more than 3,200 hotels that offer mobile arrivals will allow guests to use their own devices to check in, access their rooms, make special requests, and order meals that will be packaged and delivered to the room without contact.

Food Safety

  • The updated food-safety program features enhanced sanitation guidelines and training videos for all operational associates, including hygiene and disinfecting practices.
  • F&B operations are required to conduct self-inspection using Marriott food-safety standards as guidelines.
  • Compliance is validated using independent audits.
  • Practices for room service are being modified
  • Marriott is designing new approaches to buffets.

Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol

Radisson Hotel Group has partnered with inspection services firm SGS for its new Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol program of cleanliness and disinfection procedures. The hospitality firm plans to introduce an official safety label, issued by SGS, that individual Radisson hotels can earn upon meeting the inspection company's standards.

The company is currently extending its brand cleanliness guidelines, which include a 20-step hygiene protocol and an additional 10-step protocol for meetings and events. The company expects to complete all the necessary operational details of this program in late spring 2020. Measures under consideration include:

  • Increased cleaning and disinfection frequency of all hotel areas, including high-touch items
  • Stations with alcohol-based hand sanitizer and gloves placed at the front entrance and hotel public areas
  • Disinfection of room keys
  • Express check-out to minimize contact between guests and staff
  • Cash-free payment methods
  • Door hangers detailing cleaning and disinfection procedures displayed in each room
  • Comprehensive hygiene and prevention training programs for team members
  • Personal protective equipment (masks and gloves) for all team members

“The world has been fundamentally changed by COVID-19, so it is key that we strive to protect all who work, stay and partner with us as we re-open our doors to a new era of travel. To do this we have thoroughly examined all areas of the hotel experience, and we are proud to have partnered with SGS to create our Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol program.” says Federico J. González, CEO, Radisson Hospitality AB and chairman of Radisson Hotel Group’s global steering committee.

    Rosewood

    All Rosewood Hotels & Resorts has intensified its safety and hygiene protocols in accordance with guidelines set by the respective government and health authorities where their properties are located.

    Among Rosewood’s enhanced measures are:

    • Public and common areas will undergo hourly deep cleaning and disinfection.
    • Surgical masks and hand sanitizers will be provided to all guests and associates
    • All guests and associates will be subject to mandatory, frequent temperature checks
    • All contractors and other third parties who visit properties must sign health declarations
    • Air filters and air-conditioning systems will be cleaned regularly.
    • All associates will be briefed on enhanced personal hygiene.
    • Hydrotherapy areas in spas, including steam, sauna and vitality pools will be closed.

    Wynn's Ambitious Plan

    Marriott is the world's largest hospitality company, but it isn't the first to publicize a plan for new protocols. Wynn Las Vegas has released a 23-page Health and Sanitation Program with guidelines for reopening and operating in a responsible manner. The program lays out a proposal to slowly reopen parts of the Las Vegas economy in early May, with the goal of a gradual Strip reopening in mid- to late-May if safety benchmarks are being met.

    On Oct. 1, Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox announced that the company was adding an on-site, rapid-testing lab to the Wynn Las Vegas. The facility is expected to be finished by Thanksgiving.

    The Wynn plan for its own properties outlines the number-one priority of employee and guest health, highlighting a number of specifics such as:

    • Thermal cameras. Points of entry will be limited so security teams can use thermal cameras to conduct noninvasive temperature checks of people entering the premises. Anyone with a temperature exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit will be taken to a private area for secondary screening. Anyone with a confirmed temperature more than 100 degrees will be denied entry and directed toward appropriate medical care.
    • Physical distancing. People will be advised to stand at least six feet away from others not traveling with them, while waiting in line, using elevators and throughout the property. Restaurant tables, slot machines and other layouts will be rearranged to ensure appropriate distancing.
    • Hand sanitizer. Dispensers — touchless whenever possible — will be placed at key guest and employee entrances, and other contact areas throughout the facilities.
    • Front-of-house signage. Health and hygiene reminders will be placed throughout, including the proper way to wear, handle and dispose of masks. Table-game electronic signs will also be used for messaging and communication.
    • Back-of-house signage. All employees will be reminded of proper mask protocol and hygiene measures, as well.
    • Employee and guest health concerns. All employees have clear instructions on how to respond swiftly to any presumed cases of COVID-19 on property and report them to the Southern Nevada Health District. They have also been instructed to report any symptomatic coworker or guests to a manager.

    The Wynn report goes on to provide detailed guidelines around the entire guest journey, and the cleaning and operations protocol throughout the hotel, restaurants and casino.

    Wynn, which closed its properties in mid-March, is paying all of its 15,000 full- and part-time employees through May 15th, including an estimate for tips they could have earned during the closure. That move is costing the company $3 million per day, or $180 million for the full 60 days following the closure.

    Airbnb Enhanced Cleaning Initiative

    Meanwhile, Airbnb has rolled out a program for its hosts as well, the Enhanced Cleaning Initiative, to provide reassurance that the alternative-lodging platform is likewise placing a priority on guest and host health and safety.